Responses of Jack Evans to GLAA 2000 Questionnaire
for DC Council Candidates
1. Will you vote for a budget for the new Citizen Complaint Review Board and the Office of Citizen Complaint Review large enough to prevent the development of a case backlog?
Yes. The Citizen Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and the Office of Citizen Complaint Review (OCCR) are crucial to the efforts to create a safe environment for the District's Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered (GLBT) community.
As we know, the previous CCRB was, for a variety of reasons, ineffective. So much so it was impossible to defend the CCRB when the Council voted in 1995 (during the height of the District's budget crisis) to dismantle the CCRB. I made a pledge when I became Chair of the Council's Committee on the Judiciary in January, 1997 to restore the CCRB. I introduced Bill 12-521, saw it through its hearing and mark-up in the Judiciary Committee and then persuaded my colleagues to approve it at a full Council vote in July, 1998. I worked with GLAA throughout this process and I am most appreciative for the guidance and insight provided by GLAA's members.
However, as your question aptly notes, this revival of the CCRB will not work unless it receives proper funding -- to deny funds to the CCRB and OCCR is a recipe for another failure.
Unfortunately, efforts to supply resources to these entities has been mixed -- this must be corrected. I am ready to work with GLAA and others in the next budget cycle to ensure adequate resources are allocated so we do not once again find ourselves in a situation of an irreversible and years-long backlog of cases.
I would also add that to ensure the success of CCRB and OCCR, any increase in funds must be coupled with tougher oversight -- particularly since these entities have had recent problems in spending their allocated funds. I stand ready to work with GLAA on reviewing the current activities of the CCRB and OCCR and, if needed, call for a special oversight hearing by the Committee on the Judiciary and immediate involvement by the Mayor.
At this point, I would like to note many of the questions in this survey are directly tied to initiatives which take place during the review and passage of the District's budget. As such, let me now request a meeting with GLAA leaders in January, before the budget cycle begins, to discuss priorities and goals for the FY 2002 budget. GLAA's annual memo to all Councilmembers on budget recommendations is helpful and I would like to expand on this. Furthermore, I would hope this informal meeting could be expanded to include other Councilmembers with which GLAA has a good working relationship so there will be a clear consensus/team approach as to how to proceed on the many areas of concern to GLAA and the GLBT community.
2. Will you support legislation that will reverse the Council's recent enactment of a ban on moonlighting by members of the Metropolitan Police Department at bars and sexually oriented establishments?
Yes and No. I do not feel sexually oriented establishments should be singled out and treated differently from other businesses by being included in the moonlighting ban. However, I will defer to Chief Ramsey's adamant concern about officers moonlighting at ABC establishments since the prior arrangement allowing officers to work at such businesses did indeed result in numerous conflict of interest situations.
However, let me add that I feel the real issue is providing GLBT businesses and patrons with a safe environment. I know GLBT establishments (particularly those on O Street, S.E.) have had many problems in providing their patrons with secure access to and from their businesses. True, the hiring of moonlight MPD officers does provide a measure of safety.
However, a better solution would be for the MPD to address the longstanding security concerns of GLBT establishments and provide additional officers to patrol these areas.
Also helpful would be to discourage past predatory regulatory enforcement such as was experienced in the early-90s by the O Street, SE establishments and, more recently, by video stores across the District when a zoning regulation was instituted barring video stores from deriving more than 15% of their revenues from the sales of adult videos. These unnecessary initiatives divert time and energy from the real safety issues at hand.
3. Will you support amending recently enacted Sexual Offenders Registration Act, "Megan's Law," so that those who can prove to the court that they no longer constitute a danger to the community will not be required to register as a sex offender?
Yes. It is only a matter of time before this provision is challenged in court. And, if the court rulings of other jurisdictions is any indication, the District will lose this legal battle. I worked at length with GLAA during the Council's approval of the Sexual Offenders Registration Act on a variety of concerns. Since we were unsuccessful on deleting many of the problem provisions of this law, I know there is a need to revisit the legislation. In addition to the issue discussed in this question, I also would like to again review the decision to transfer control of the registration program from the MPD to the Court Services & Offender Supervision Agency.
4. Will you support the full funding and full staffing of the Metropolitan Police Department's newly created Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) as currently proposed?
Yes. While the relationship between the MPD and the GLBT community has improved in recent years, there are still many obvious signs that much improvement is needed in this area. Most notable are problems with the full implementation of the Bias-Related Crimes Act of 1989 and the lack of proper treatment of transgendered individuals. As such, I have met several times with Third District Commander Mark Beach and have expressed my unqualified support for this initiative.
Two improvements which should be made on this proposal would be to increase the staffing of GLLU from its current level of two and to relocate (at least temporarily) GLLU to MPD's Third District headquarters. While I well know members of the GLBT community can be found in all corners of DC and I recognize the value of having this program within eyeshot of the Chief's office, the GLBT community has the highest concentration in MPD's Third District boundaries. As such, while this program is still in its early stages, I feel a presence at "3D" would be helpful in raising awareness of this valuable program.
5. Will you demand mandatory gay male, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sensitivity and diversity training including gay and transgender community representative as a continuing part of the training for all members of the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department?
Yes. I have long championed for the inclusion of GLBT sensitivity training at the Metropolitan Police Department and the Fire/EMS Department for both new recruits and veteran officers by members of the GLBT community. Horrible incidents such as the Tyra Hunter tragedy make it all too clear there is still much work to be done to eliminate GLBT discrimination in our public safety sector.
I am quite concerned MPD Chief Ramsey dismantled the GLBT component of training in FY 2000 with little, if any, notice to the GLBT community and the Council. This is inexcusable and must not be repeated. I am further dismayed at the possibility Gay Men and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) volunteers might not be included in future community relations training programs. There is no substitute for training by members of the GLBT community.
Since there is not a question in this candidate survey which directly addresses the wrongful death of Tyra Hunter, I would like to discuss my efforts on this issue. I worked to have the DC Fire Department expand its investigation and I have been actively involved in the efforts of GLAA and others to encourage the DC Corporation Counsel to drop its appeal of the court decision in favor of the Hunter family. Also, I will strongly question the Mayor's nominee for the Fire & EMS Department Chief this fall about how to ensure an incident such as this will never be repeated. The first step toward that goal is to ensure meaningful GLBT sensitivity training such as has been discussed in this question.
Again, I look forward to working with GLAA in the next budget cycle to include provisions which will enhance GLBT sensitivity training at both the MPD and Fire & EMS.
PUBLIC HEALTH & HIV
6. Last year, a unique identifier system for tracking the spread of HIV was approved by the Council and Mayor, rather than a names reporting system that would deter some people from being tested in the first place. Will you insist that unique identifier system be implemented without delay and fairly evaluated?
Yes. I will work with GLAA and health experts to ensure this system is implemented. But, let me be clear that failure to implement a unique identifier system will in no way allow for the backdoor introduction of a names reporting system.
For years I have fought efforts to institute an HIV/AIDS names reporting system. One of the most important parts of any HIV/AIDS outreach and education effort is to simply have sexually active individuals test themselves on a regular basis so they are aware of their HIV status. Testing not only allows an individual to properly inform sexual partners of his/her health status, but is also crucial to the maintenance of their own health since an early diagnosis can lead to a significantly enhanced treatment effort. And, it has been proven time and time again, the most effective way to increase participation in testing is to ensure 100% anonymous testing for all residents.
As you know, I worked overtime in the summer of 1999 to fight the intense efforts to force the District into creating a names reporting system. Unfortunately, this was not the first time I had fought such a battle. In previous years, both at the City Council and the Council of Governments, I have worked at length to defeat efforts which would weaken the availability of anonymous HIV testing. I am still dismayed such efforts were expended last year to promote a names reporting system while dozens of real issues confronting the District's HIV/AIDS efforts are not being adequately addressed. Simply put, we should not be wasting time on this issue. Instead we must address issues such as expanding our clean needle program, putting real "teeth" into the condom availability program at DC schools and prisons and working to improve the operations of the District's Agency on HIV/AIDS.
7. Will you oppose Bill 13-240 which would make possession and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes a felony?
Yes, I oppose impediments to the efforts to permit the distribution of medical marijuana. As the first elected official to support the medical marijuana initiative, I well know the value of marijuana in combating nausea and wasting syndrome in people living with HIV/AIDS and other terminal illnesses. My efforts on this issue began with my work with Steve Smith in 1994 to secure passage of a "Sense of the Council" resolution on this issue. When this effort was replaced by the Initiative campaigns, I threw my support to those activities.
I asked many questions about how/if Bill 13-240 would negatively impact on medical marijuana efforts. I received repeated assurances it would not since the emphasis of Bill 13-240 was to curb distribution and the amounts were set at a sufficiently high level so as to target dealers and not everyday users. However, I know 13-240 may still be harmful to the medical marijuana initiatives. As such, it will have to be revisited to ensure it does not hamper this effort.
8. Will you support the use of District taxpayer funds to implement a needle exchange program?
Yes. I firmly believe an effective needle exchange program is one of the best ways to combat the District's ever-increasing rate of new infections. As such, I have long and active history on this issue. I have been the leading Council advocate for needle exchange programs since my efforts in the early '90s to encourage the police not to disrupt the "informal" clean needle exchanges which operated before the District created its own program. I fought hard against (albeit unsuccessfully) the restrictive provisions which were included in DC's original needle exchange program in 1992.
I quickly seized upon the inadequacy of the 1992 initiative to create the current system by writing and fighting for passage of the enabling legislation which took this program out of the woefully inadequate hands of the government and allowed it to be administered by a local community based organization. Not content to merely pass the law and sit idle while its implementation was delayed by the inevitable DC redtape, I worked at length with activists to ensure swifter enactment of this law.
I have repeatedly rallied against Congressional efforts to dismantle or restrict this program. As you know, Congress has been successful in banning the use of any District funds to administer the DC needle exchange program. In response, an independent entity, PreventionWorks!, was created to administer this program. I have personally raised thousands of dollars for this organization and made its success a key part of my addresses to audiences both within and outside of the GLBT community.
In regard to this question, I feel the District should increase its efforts to promote this issue and not merely allow Congressional overrides force us into a position of doing nothing. Given the ever increasing evidence vastly in support of needle exchanges as a means for reducing transmission of the HIV virus, I feel this battle can eventually be won and Congress will let us operate the program without interference. As such, I would like to work with GLAA next year to include more pro-active language on this topic in DC's budget.
9. The Administration for HIV/AIDS (AHA) is still unable to account for its spending. Will you ask the Inspector General to audit AHA contracting.
Yes. This is one of the most disturbing questions on the survey for the simple fact that the District has never been a leader in its HIV/AIDS education/prevention/outreach/treatment efforts. I will contact Councilmember Allen, Chair of the Committee on Human Services, and request for assistance in pursuing this investigation.
10. Will you support earmarking funds to combat mental health problems and homelessness among sexual minority youth?
Yes. And, let me stress the easiest and most effective way to accomplish this is for the District Government to work with organizations such as Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) and Metro Teen AIDS. Since my Chief of Staff, John Ralls, served for me on the SMYAL Board of Directors for two years and I am a longtime member of the Metro Teen AIDS Board of Advisors, I am well aware of the many wonderful programs and services provided by these groups. We must provide grants and other resources to them (and other worthy groups) so they can expand their efforts and, in turn, strengthen DC's HIV prevention efforts for sexual minority youth.
11. Will you support a temporary increase in the annual budget for the Office of Human Rights (OHR) over the next several years until its persistent 700-case backlog has been eliminated?
Yes. The Office of Human Rights is one of the most important mechanisms this city has to ensure proper enforcement of the Human Rights Act of 1978. For the past several years, OHR has testified at its budget hearings that it is well aware of the enormous backlog, but it has a sure- fire plan to resolve this problem. As GLAA noted in its annual budget recommendations memo, OHR budget only allows it to annually complete as many cases as it opens. As such, OHR returns to the budget witness table the next year having made no progress on this issue and still forcing individuals filing a case to wait more than two years before OHR can reach a finding of probable cause.
I am glad the Council took steps toward ending this cycle of defeat by including in this year's OHR budget $200,000 in additional funds (in addition to the Mayor's increase of $100,000). While it was left to the discretion of OHR as to how these funds should be spent, I hope these monies will be used to not only hire additional investigators but to also look at increasing the payscale for all investigators and providing ongoing training for all OHR employees. The end result of this "temporary" increase should be that OHR eliminates its backlog and refurbishes its tarnished image to the point that it becomes the first resort for people with grievances. In turn, an increased caseload would necessitate a permanent increase in funding so as to avoid a return to the current state of backlogs.
12. Will you support legislation that will codify OHR's former practice of giving top priority to discrimination complaints filed by people with AIDS or other major life- threatening diseases?
Yes. As I have said in the past, it is important to give automatic priority to complaints involving allegations of HIV or AIDS related discrimination. While this is currently the practice of OHR, codifying this priority via legislation is a wise step and I will gladly join this effort.
I would also like to note at this point that I am not aware if there has been a response to GLAA's request in March that the Mayor issue an executive order that would reiterate the District government's commitment to the Human Rights Act of 1977. Given the recent troubling signs of this law being overlooked, it is most important we again stress this law's inclusion in government exercises ranging from the issuance of contracts to the drafting of regulations. If needed, I am ready to work with GLAA to ensure this order is issued and, more importantly, its directives followed by government agencies.
13. DC's rate of HIV infections among teenagers is significantly higher than the national average. Will you support legislation to increase HIV prevention efforts targeted towards sexual minority youth?
Yes. I would also note one of the most effective ways to improve DC's HIV prevention efforts targeted toward sexual minority youth (in fact, all youth) would be to effectively implement the condom availability program. As a founding member of the Condom Availability Coalition and the leading Council proponent of the original initiative to create a condom availability program, I well know the importance of this effort. However, I know from my work with GLAA, SMYAL and Metro Teen AIDS that this program has never been fully implemented and there have been many setbacks in its administration. As such, I have stayed in contact with school officials (most recently via a letter and meeting last year with then-DC Public Schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman) on this issue.
DEFENDING OUR FAMILIES
14. Will you support legal recognition of marriages between partners of the same sex?
Yes. As one of the first elected officials in DC to support gay marriages and one of the leaders in the passage of the District's Domestic Partners legislation, I well know the importance of this issue. As I said in my 1996 GLAA candidate questionnaire: "I have always advocated for same-sex marriage as an important component in providing gay men and lesbians with equality of opportunity. For those couples who deem that marriage is right for them, they should receive the City's blessing, recognition, and advantages, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the parties constituting the couple." I stand by these comments 100%.
15. Will you agree that the District should recognize the same-sex civil unions established in Vermont or other jurisdictions?
Yes, see response to question 16 for more details.
16. Will you support legislation in the District similar to Vermont's civil unions law?
Yes. As a first step the District must move toward recognizing the civil unions which occurred this July in Vermont. Not only is it the right thing to do, but failing to do so will only result in a lengthy court battle. As we move toward recognition, we must also begin the arduous process of creating our own civil union process. True, given Congressional oversight, this will be a difficult venture. However, given the merits of this issue we must move forward. As such, my staff has already been in contact with your organization on this subject. I look forward to working soon with GLAA on advancing both of these issues.
17. Will you support the well-established decision by D.C. Courts, which recognize the right of unmarried couples to adopt children jointly?
Yes. We must recognize the right of unmarried couples and single individuals to adopt and we should move toward sanctioning simultaneous adoption for same-sex couples. With thousands of children in the D.C. foster care system, it is imperative we do all we can to encourage unmarried couples who choose to provide a loving environment. As such, I have loudly protested the all too frequent Congressional interference (such as the Largent amendment) on this issue.
YOUTH AND PUBLIC EDUCATION
18. Will you support legislation prohibiting harassment of students in the District schools (both public and charter) on the basis of any of the protected categories enumerated in the D.C. Human Rights Law?
Yes. I was quite pleased when DC Superintendent Arlene Ackerman issued a directive prohibiting harassment of students from both their peers and school employees. As with any new initiative, the success of this policy will depend entirely on the degree of implementation. I know the school system has said they are intent upon providing training needed to see this policy succeed. I stand ready to work with GLAA to ensure this training does occur and, if not, line item its inclusion in next year's budget. And, I also stand ready to craft provisions which will ensure these same safeguards exist for students in the charter school system.